Only three members of a key city commission that authorizes spending of hospitality tax collections – to include at least $300,000 to support the Keller convention center project supported by Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin – have filed financial disclosure forms designed to show potential conflicts of interest.
The commission has been at ground zero of a controversy surrounding two convention centers being proposed for the city.
Jonesboro Deputy City Clerk Nikki Nottingham said Rennell Woods and Chris Gibson had been the only members of the Jonesboro Advertising and Promotion Commission to turn in the paperwork before a Jan. 31 deadline, which is required under state law. Woods and Gibson are also members of the Jonesboro City Council, who are also required by law to file financial disclosure forms. Jonesboro Finance Director Suzanne Allen said Monday her office gave financial disclosure paperwork to commissioners at a meeting in late March.
According to Nottingham, commission members Naz Kazi, Matt Crawford, Bill Hurt and Kathy Cardwell have not filed paperwork as of Monday (June 6). Commission chairman Thom Beasley said Monday he filed his financial disclosure report sometime in April, but was not sure why his records were not on file with the city.
“I turned one in,” Beasley said.
Beasley later refiled the report Monday afternoon, Nottingham said.
The process for filing a financial disclosure report is spelled out in Arkansas Code annotated 21-8-701 as well as rules from the Arkansas Ethics Commission. According to the law, an A&P commissioner is one of several public officials required to fill out the paperwork. Among the list of officials also required to file the report are district judges or city attorneys, a school superintendent, a mayor, city council members, a member of a planning board or commission, an airport board or commission, a water/sewer board, a utility board and a civil service commission.
Nottingham said the clerk’s office has records on file for members of the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, Jonesboro Civil Service Commission, Jonesboro Airport Commission, City Water and Light board, Mayor Harold Perrin, each city council member, City Clerk Donna Jackson and City Attorney Carol Duncan but not the four members of the A&P commission.
However, Allen said the law can be confusing, especially when dealing with reports from appointed officials. Typically, financial disclosure reports from state officials, state appointees and state candidates must be filed with the Secretary of State’s office while county officials and county candidates must file with the county clerk’s office. Also, city officials as well as members of city boards and commissions must file with the city clerk’s office.
According to a record obtained by Talk Business and Politics, Jackson sent an email April 4 to Beasley notifying him of the need for the records. In the email, Jackson discussed several ideas the commission could use in its daily operations as well as provided reading material to help answer questions.
“Friday, I hand delivered to your office the Arkansas Statues pertaining to the Advertising and Promotion Act, as well as city ordinances which have been adopted. I hope you have had a chance to read the Independent Review of the Advertising and Promotion Commission done by the city of Little Rock,” Jackson said in the email. “It has excellent recommendations for establishing a well run commission.”
Jackson also made several suggestions to the commission. They include:
• Adoption of Bylaws for the A&P Commission with guidelines for the application process, awarding of funds, accounting of unexpended funds, and procedures for draw downs from the City of Jonesboro;
• Appointment of a Treasurer and Secretary, independent of the City of Jonesboro;
• Each commissioner is required to file a statement of financial interest with the City Clerk annually;
• Submit a quarterly or monthly report to the Mayor and City Council which is reconciled by Jonesboro’s CFO; and
• Outside annual audit by a reputable auditing firm.
Beasley said the commission “will do better” in dealing with the recommendations.
The city’s finance office took over the operations of the commission on March 14 after officials with the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce relinquished control. The chamber ran the day to day operations of the commission from October 2010 until March 15.